Recruitment of staff can be a time consuming activity; finding the right person with the relevant experience and qualifications who will fit in with the rest of your team can take time. It is also important to get the administration aspects of this completed in a timely matter, as one nursery manager found out to her cost.
The nursery in question had taken on a new employee, Beth, who seemed to fit the bill at interview. As part of their normal recruitment process the candidate was sent an offer letter. This was accepted in writing by Beth and she started working at the nursery.
The problem was that despite starting neither of Beth’s referees provided satisfactory references. When the nursery manager called the employment helpline she was concerned that Beth had already started and despite repeated attempts to illicit a reference, none had been forthcoming.
The manager was advised to talk to the employee and ask if she knew of any reason why her referees had failed to provide a reference and, as an alternative, if she could provide any more. At the meeting the employee seemed very reticent to talk about the issue and challenged why the nursery manager would need them. The manager explained that it was part of the normal vetting process and was especially key in the industry they worked in. The employee agreed to follow up with her referees to ensure that they were provided.
However, it was still an issue over two weeks later and the nursery manager took further advice from the helpline on what her options were. The advisor established that the original letter had made it clear that the offer was conditional upon the receipt of satisfactory references. Given that the employee had also already been asked about the absence of references she was aware that it was an outstanding issue for the company. It was advised that there should be a further meeting with Beth outlining concerns and giving her a deadline by which time references needed to have been received by. If no satisfactory references were received then they could invite her to a meeting and dismiss because she had failed to meet the conditions of the original offer of employment.
A further meeting was held with Beth, who admitted that she wouldn’t be provided with any references as she had been dismissed for gross misconduct in her previous role. She resigned at the meeting and despite being given a cooling off period, never returned to work.
While an employer should never solely rely on references and a previous employer does not need to provide them, getting such information in good time could prevent the difficult situation this nursery found themselves in.
The manager was advised that if they wished to make offers of employment conditional on receiving satisfactory references in the future, then such references should be obtained prior to the employee starting the job. This is not least because this would enable the offer to be withdrawn, rather than needing to terminate a contract that has come into existence.
Don’t forget Dot 2 Dot members have access to Croner’s team of employment law experts through their Helpline to assist you with this subject or any other HR issue. Simply call them on 0844 561 8111.